POLITICAL MANIFESTOS AS TUTORIALS FOR STUDENTS OF ECONOMICS
Tagged: Bola Ahmed Tinubu Manifesto-the 29-page document has as its opening: My Vision for Nigeria, embracing the following: A nation transformed into greatness, the pride of Africa, a role model for all black people worldwide, and respected among all other countries…
Essence of manifestos
Starting with the obvious: the essence of manifestos, as easily confirmable online, is that: a manifesto is a published declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government. Wikipedia has embellished this essence of manifestos by noting that: “A manifesto usually accepts a previously published opinion or public consensus or promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions for carrying out changes the author believes should be made. It often is political, social or artistic in nature, sometimes revolutionary, but may present an individual's life stance. Manifestos relating to religious belief are generally referred to as creeds or, a confession of faith”. According to the online medium, the word manifesto is derived from the Italian word manifesto, itself derived from the Latin manifestum, meaning clear or conspicuous.
Adopting a somewhat queer and controversial method and language, Geoff McDonald has come up with a list of ten ‘famous manifestos’, in a piece shared on February 27, 2011-with an accompanying video updated in August 2022; the transcript is reproduced with some editing, below:
1 Apple Ad: Here’s to the Crazy Ones
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple as CEO in 1997, this was the first ad campaign that Apple created. It was a series called Think Different and it is a double-sided manifesto:
First, it defines what the company stands for – a call to arms – a mission – for their staff and the quality standard they are aspiring to.
Second, it’s a call to arms for their customers. It is inspiration and permission to pursue your own genius – to be a little crazy – just like the famous people featured in the ad.
2. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Some manifestos are inspired by bright possibilities and others by fixing things gone wrong. During World War II an estimated 50 million people were killed in battle and a further 20 million due to war-related disease and famine. That is two to three times the entire population of Australia. At the time it was about 3% of the world’s population. As a result of the war and in particular, the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany, the United Nations developed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As a manifesto, it is the basic document that frames human rights for everyone on the planet. This social charter is the most translated document in the world – available in over 350 languages. And it is the reference point against which all country’s commitments to human rights are judged.
3. John F Kennedy’s Land a Man on the Moon speech
In 1961, newly elected US President John F Kennedy announced to Congress that the US would send a man to the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the decade. It was a response to the US recession and the drive to control space during the Cold War with the Communist countries. As such, it was not just about the moon. Rather, it was a statement of intent for the US as a country for the decade ahead. And when Neil Armstrong put his foot on the moon on 20 July 1969 it became a defining moment in human history and the fulfilment of a famous manifesto.
4. Marinetti’s Futurism Manifesto
While the corporate world has few famous manifestos, the art world has plenty of them. Wikipedia lists over 65 examples. In 1909, the Italian poet Filippo Marinetti had his Declaration of Futurism published in newspapers in Italy and France. It celebrated the speed of the new machines – cars, planes and buses – and called for a visual expression that mirrored the emerging fast-paced modern world.
5. On the origin of species by Charles Darwin
This is a science manifesto about what it means to be a human being. Darwin proposes that the diversity of life on the planet arises from evolution and it caused a lot of discussion over the years. Ultimately, it shows that the right manifesto can change how people see themselves and their place in the world.
6. Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto
Ted’s manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future is 35,000 words in length – the size of a small book. He was not the first or only person to write about the negative effects of industrial technology. Besides, the infamy of his manifesto is not really based on what he has written, but more so on what he did. Over 15 years, Kaczynski mailed or hand-delivered more than 16 bombs that killed three people and injured 23 others. The Unabomber manifesto only became famous because Kaczynski threatened newspapers to publish it, or he would continue to deliver bombs.
7. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto
The Communist Manifesto was written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848 and it presents the core ideology of the political system of Socialism. It is recognized as one of the most influential political documents ever written. And through its adoption as the Communist doctrine by Russia and a suite of European countries, it changed the political landscape for millions of people.
8. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech
The speech was delivered to over 250,000 people in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on August 28, 1963. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is a powerful vision for the future of America and became a pivotal moment in the US Civil Rights campaign. It has become a worldwide call for individuals to aspire to fulfil their own dreams.
9. The US Declaration of Independence
At the time it was written, 13 colonies were at war with the English and their King, George III. The locals were not happy – they didn’t like someone else telling them what to do and they didn’t like the high taxes they were being charged. As a result, a group of 56 men published a handwritten note which they each signed, A Declaration of Independence – the US Declaration of Independence. The document said we are no longer under your rule. We are now an independent union. Significantly, by signing their names, the men were committing treason which could have resulted in the death penalty.
10. The Bible and the Ten Commandments;, The Quran and the Five Pillars
The Bible is a collection of scriptures in Christianity, Judaism and other religions and there are quite a few different versions dating back several thousand years. The archetype or classic format of a manifesto is the Ten Commandments which sets out ten rules for how to live as a Christian. Similarly, the Quran spells out in clear terms the five basic pillars of Islam which every faithful is -+required to live by and its content and phraseology have remained unaltered over time.
Importance of Manifestos
Nikolaus Eder, Marcelo Jenny and Wolfgang C. Müller in the piece, “Manifesto functions: How party candidates view and use their party's central policy document” published in Electoral Studies, Volume 45, February 2017, Pages 75-87, have advanced three campaign-related functions of manifestos: (i)they provide a compendium of valid party positions, (ii)streamline the campaign, and (iii)are used as campaign material. One of the reasons why a party manifesto is important is that in ideal circumstances, it is able to determine a clear ideological direction for the party. It indicates whether the party is a social democratic party, a capitalist oriented party, a purely socialist party or any other ideological direction that it may choose. Ideology is one of those concepts in social sciences that, despite not being directly observable, has implications for several observable variables. With focus on Latin America, Gabriela Tarouco, Rafael Madeira and Soraia Vieira made a conceptually relevant point to the effect that:
Party ideology seems to have lost importance - to public policy, voting behaviour, electoral coalitions, for example - in some advanced democracies as distinct governments worldwide converged into a globalized economic policy and various societies embraced post-materialist values. In contemporary Latin America, however, where struggles about redistribution are pervasive, party ideology still plays a role and has received corresponding attention from political science.
The issue of the place of ideology in p olitical perspective and behaviour on the part of political parties as well as candidates’ convictions has assumed a problematic status especially in Nigeria where political parties have ceased to be distinguishable by ideological label and decamping across Party lines has become fashionable. Voting patterns have therefore become largely unpredictable using the ideological index as other forces notably personality of the contestant, ethnic and religious solidarity and power of party structure have taken the reign. The fluidity of the political terrain must have inspired Ishola Adebayo to write the piece in August 2018 bearing the instructive title: “Nigeria's Political Parties: Ideology, Manifesto & Defections!” His analysis led to the logical conclusion that:
Taking a deep scrutiny at the way our political system in Nigeria is structured since the adoption of democracy, it is more than obvious that our political parties in Nigeria lack ideologies. Truly our political parties bear different names but if looked critically, there are no too much differences among them . . . The practice of carpet-crossing, defection or party switching appears to have become an undying attribute of party politics in Nigeria. Carpet crossing by Nigerian politicians is dated back to the First Republic particularly in 1951, a decade to Nigeria’s independence in the defunct Western Regional House of Assembly.
Our footnote to the above submission is the fact that there are political parties in the country with clearly articulated ideological orientation but unfortunately they are less known. Furthermore, Party manifestos have their pros and cons as sources of ideology measures. This because, while being the formal party statement presented to the public, such documents are at the same time targeted at the electoral context. In such contexts, it makes sense to pay more attention to individual candidates’ manifestos where available, such as the one publicly shared by Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) of Nigeria’s all Progressives Congress (APC) during the 2023 election campaigns.
The Manifesto of BAT
Tagged: Bola Ahmed Tinubu Manifesto-the 29-page document has as its opening: My Vision for Nigeria, embracing the following:
A nation transformed into greatness, the pride of Africa, a role model for all black people worldwide, and respected among all other countries.
A vibrant and thriving democracy and a prosperous nation with a fast growing industrial base, capable of producing the most basic needs of the people and exporting to other countries of the world.
A country with a robust economy, where prosperity is broadly shared by all irrespective of class, region and religion.
A nation where its people enjoy all the basic needs ,including a safe and secure environment, abundant food, affordable shelter, health care and quality primary education for all;
A nation founded on justice, peace and prosperity for all.
On the economy, the manifesto states that its author will, among other measures:
focus on stimulating jobs, get Nigeria to work by launching a major public works program, a significant and heavy investment in infrastructure, and value-adding manufacturing and agriculture;
build an efficient, fast-growing and diversified emerging economy with a real GDP growth averaging 12% annually for the next four years;
launch a new National Industrial Policy that will focus on special intervention to reinvigorate special strategic industries (all in support of job creation);
establish new industrial growth centers by creating six new Regional economic Development Agencies (that) will create sub-regional industrial hubs to exploit each zone’s competitive advantage and optimize their potential; and
promote innovation and creativity through heavy investment in research, development, science and technology.
Apart from the enduring challenge of insecurity which the manifesto promises to address, there is also a stated commitment to “run a lean and efficient Federal Government with zero tolerance for wastefulness, corruption and inefficiency in public service delivery” while pursuing a growth-oriented fiscal policy that will stimulate local production, import substitution, export of manufactured products and enhance revenue generation”. The last point here on revenue generation is given measurable target of boosting Federally Collected Revenue “by over 200% in the next four years”. Clearly, the foregoing conveys a substantial load of issues that any serious student of economics will find engaging at both theoretical and policy levels.
Issues for the attention of Economics Students
In order to broaden the perception of the students and highlight the lurking presence of ideology in the Nigerian political campaigns, we recall the very insightful albeit controversial submission by Marcel Okeke of the Guardian newspaper-published on November 1, 2022 titled: “2023: Random thoughts on economic manifesto”, drawing our attention to the opening paragraph of the section on the ‘Economy’ of the manifesto of one of the other presidential candidates which states: “The structural model upon which our national economy has always been based needs major reform. Our economy is unhelpfully designed to export raw materials and import increasingly expensive finished products.” The manifesto notes that the Nigerian economy has over the years been a victim of ‘Dutch Disease’—as it has depended on one sector (crude oil) and huge revenue therefrom and paid scant attention to other sectors. Consequently, Nigeria operates a ‘rentier economy’—one in which people scheme and position themselves to appropriate the flowing oil money without necessarily producing anything in the economy. In effect, people pick and sell contract documents, and the buyer of the documents sells to yet a third party—and everyone in the chain makes ‘huge profit’, and in most cases, the contract is left undone.
I propose that the student approaches the analysis of a typical political manifesto –party or individual-through the route of the standard macroeconomic objectives covering principally the following:
rapid economic growth-referencing GDP;
ensuring fair income distribution, and
promoting sustainable development, etc.
It should not surprise us if a political manifesto raises these issues in less explicit language than how it has been rendered here but it is necessary to ascertain if and how they are highlighted for action. Indeed, the one critical index for measuring the relevance of such a manifesto is the practical measures or strategies conceived for their implementation; this criterion is predicated on the realization that it is one thing to articulate attractive policy objectives, it is another thing to undertake the necessary steps towards their realization.
Bridging the gap between rhetoric and practice
In order to move a nation forward through democratic means, an essential step is to bridge the gap between rhetoric and practice. In many economies, especially the underdeveloped ones-thanks to the machination of imperialism, execution or implementation of articulated national objectives often come against overwhelming challenges. These challenges are thrown up largely as a result of the unequal and exploitative relationship between these relatively poor countries in the global South and their exploiting counterparts from the global North.
The basic fact is that the contemporary international economic order is structured in such a way as to make the fulfilment of national plan objectives in developing countries difficult and usually uncertain precisely because of the prevailing international division of labour- as the poor countries produce and sell primary products of highly elastic prices while importing from the advanced economies manufactured goods of relatively inelastic price profiles. At the end of series of transactions over time, through international trade, wealth is transferred from the global South to enrich the rich global North. This is the broad historical background against which the manifestos of political parties and their aspiring candidates should be contextualized as the enduring framework for projecting as to the fate of such declarations. I come in peace, please.